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Skeptics award for critical thinking in journalism – nominations open

Australian Skeptics Inc is adding to its portfolio of annual awards with one for the best piece of skeptical journalism.

The award is named for the late Barry Williams, past president and executive officer of ASI who was a regular on Australian media. The Barry Williams Award for Skeptical Journalism will recognise the best piece of journalism (in any medium) that takes a critical and skeptical approach to a topic that falls within our remit, which is the scientific investigation of pseudoscience and the paranormal.

The award is nicknamed the “Wallaby”, in memory of Sir Jim R Wallaby, the regular nom-de-plume Barry used for his more whimsical editorial pieces. It will be awarded annually, with a citation and $2000 prize.

A panel made up of experienced journalists across differing media has been put together to review entries.

Tim Mendham, executive officer of ASI and editor of The Skeptic, said “We have given a similar award a few times in the past, though the most recent was back in 2010.

“We’re now calling for nominations for the Wallaby from skeptics, the public and the media – journalists can nominate their own work. It would nominally be given for one piece or a series, used in print, TV, radio, or online, produced in Australia, and published or broadcast during 2018.”

Nominations should be sent to the editor of The Skeptic at editor@nullskeptics.com.au or send hard copies to Australian Skeptics, PO Box 20, Beecroft NSW 2119.

He said that a key issue would be the nature of a “skeptical” piece of journalism: “Should it take a debunking stance, or a more general critical thinking approach? Personally I would prefer the second – the piece takes a critical investigative approach to the topic, though I must admit I might have concerns if a piece came down in favour of the outer fringes of ‘woo’. My view is that we would certainly not be rewarding a puff piece for either side of the argument – serious journalism only need apply.”

The Wallaby will complement the Skeptics’ other awards, which include the Bent Spoon, which goes to “the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal piffle”, as well as the more positive Skeptic of the Year and the Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason. The latter goes to a member of the public who may not have anything to do with the skeptical movement.

The prize amount for the Thornett Award, previously set at $1000, will rise to $2000 in line with the media prize.

The recipients of these awards are traditionally announced at the gala dinner for our annual convention, which this year will be held on October 13.

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